The Maritime Administration (MARAD) held its National Maritime Symposium during the week of January 13th. There were no fireworks and everything went as expected. The general consensus across the maritime industry is that it was a nice gesture on the part of Maritime Administrator Jaenichen to show the industry he is making an effort but that nothing is expected to come of it. Let me be the first to say I hope everyone turns out to be wrong.
There was a Facebook video that made the rounds recently about “Living Like a Swede.” The premise of the short video is that a wealthy American finds a way to live like a Swede, whatever that means. It’s pretty clever. Here is the link.
MaritimeTV attended the symposium and got video as well. I have watched all the videos and and can only imagine the exemplary effort Dave Gardy and his team put forth to get all that footage. Here are a couple of Dave’s interviews:
Administrator Jaenichen’s interview was very good.
He has been a quick study. His eagerness to effect change is refreshing and he will come up with something unprecedented. The question is who is sitting on his office couch the most and bending his ear? It sure isn’t me. Maybe the outcome will be fair to you, maybe it won’t. But it will be Administrator Jaenichen’s job to get this thing worked out so that America’s maritime industry across all sectors is ensured a robust future.
I may be biased but MM&P President Don Marcus’s interview was on the mark. It also happens to be the most viewed of any individual interview MaritimeTV conducted.
It is unfortunate that Don’s live speech from the symposium floor is not also available because it was very good.
At one of the breakout sessions run by very effective MARAD facilitators the question went around about what it takes to retain mariners. Compensation was high on the list to be sure, but it is not the most important factor. There are seafarers making a lot of money in the Gulf of Mexico right now so why aren’t all mariners going there? Because other things matter too. Things like time off, robust healthcare, a secure retirement and good working conditions. In a phrase, overall quality of life. The Gulf of Mexico oil boom will not last forever and many mariners recognize that working to earn a pension is just as important as the daily wage. Unfortunately this concept is anathema to many employers these days.
Going to sea is a tough life. It always has been. I know because I have been out there and I still ship out occasionally but now more than ever the profession is physically and spiritually demanding and harsh. Any endeavor or challenge begins and ends with people. As the Maritime Administration develops a plan that all sectors of the U.S. maritime industry must support, it would do well to start with what matters most: the people out there aboard the vessels. Get that part right and the rest will be an easy sell. Living like a Swede is not impossible in the American maritime industry if we structure it properly from the beginning. Then the issue of mariner retention will become an afterthought.